Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

Sir Harry Vane

Quite the most distinguished person who came among us was Sir Harry Vane. His father was a Privy Councilor to the King, and one of the Secretaries of State in England. Because of wanting to see the New World, the young gentleman had been given permission to come to this country for a term of three years.

I wish you could have seen the stir that was made when he arrived. The Governor, with his soldiers and trumpeters, went down to the wharf to receive him with great ceremony, and the cannon on board the ships were discharged with a wondrous noise when he stepped ashore.


He was a most pleasing man to look upon, so young and so courtly, while his costume was a marvel of elegance. It seemed to me, as I saw him taking the Governor's hand with so much grace, that we needed but few men of the same kind among us to lend great distinction to our town in America.

That same evening, however, my mother reproached me because of worldly thoughts, saying that fine feathers do not make fine birds, although they may make a bird look fine, which I suppose is the same as if she had said that an evil man might, by his costume, be made to appear worthy, whereas he would not be so at heart.

However, I was not the only one in Boston who favored Sir Harry Vane, for before the year was over, when Master Haynes' term of office had expired, he was chosen as our Governor, and surely no person could have looked more kingly than did he, when he stood in the door of the Great House bowing to those people who had assembled in honor of his having been elected.

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